Today, the mecca of influential hip hop music seems to be overflowing from the streets of Chicago. If you are not already aware, Kanye West, Common, Lupe Fiasco, Jeremih, and Yung Berg all hail from these streets. However, Chicago also employs a new underground scene of musicians who are working to emerge or who have already exploded onto the music scene. Of these musicians, Chance the Rapper, Chief Keef, BJ the Chicago Kid, Rockie Fresh, and of course, Vic Mensa have made numerous strides to attain popularity.
In fact, it has only been a few months since Vic Mensa began a solo career after his band, Kids These Days, broke up. After this split, Mensa used several of his connections in the music industry to get high caliber producers like Boi-1da and guest artists such as Chance the Rapper, Ab- Soul, and Rockie Fresh to appear on his new mixtape, Innanetape. The band Kids These Days had a distinctly alternative sound that permeates through many of Mensa’s songs in this mixtape. This 13 track mixtape is not particularly innovative. He does not have strong lyrical word play, a unique flow or sound, or even really just hard hitting beats matched with interesting melodies. However, through this mixtape, you can clearly see Mensa’s attempt to transform into a solo artist.
He opens this album with the appropriately named song “ Welcome to Innanet Tape”. On top of probably the hardest hitting beat of the whole entire tape, Mensa continuously states, “Tap into my frequency” throughout the song. At the end of the song, we are informed that not only should we listen to what he has to say in this album, but we should also become a part of his future story. As the album continues, he talks about his love for music, the violence in Chicago, drug usage, and his budding new career. One of the unfortunate mistakes of the album is that Mensa seems to be overshadowed by the featured artists , especially Chance the Rapper in “ Tweaking” . Any Chance the Rapper fan will hear the startling similarity between the sounds and flow of Mensa and Chance. In “Tweakin” both Mensa and Chance talk about causations for them to “tweak” or go crazy. Chance immediately makes his mark on the song when he states “I think the Illuminati is real/And your body’s the peel/ and your soul is the fruit/ And they goal is to steal and control all the juice”. This strong metaphor in the beginning of his verse already sets a difference between Mensa and Chance. While Mensa and Chance speak on similar topics, Chance is far more advanced in lyrical word play, flow, and even engaging the listener with personality. As a result, on “Tweakin” and another song, “Holy, Holy” feat. Ab- Soul and BJ the Chicago, Mensa falls flat at times.
However, one can see major potential in the relatively young rapper. In “Holy, Holy” he tells the story of the death of his friend Cam and his desire to allow the troubles of the world fade away by smoking. In “Fear and Doubt”, he addresses the ever dangerous streets of Chicago: “What is my life to become? I wonder if I’ll ever be the man, my momma wish I was Or will I end up victim to the hand of the gun?” This line in combination with the somber sounds of this song truly resonates and turns Mensa from a young rapper to a young artist, clearly expressing his worries regarding his future.
From examination of the Innanetape, it is evident that Mensa still has a lot of work ahead of him if wants to gain as much popularity as some other Chicago artists.Mensa has yet to truly find his own distinctive style, flow, personality, or story to convey in his music. However, when he finds and translates his own person into his rap, given his alternative background, the results should be entertaining.
– Ogechi Nwodim, Leisure and Music Staff Writer